House Speaker John Boehner, whose incoherent approach to the constitutional mandate that Congress check and balance presidential war-making has so served the interests of the Obama administration’s Libya project, steered the House into conflict with itself Friday.
Boehner advanced two proposals (under the sponsorship of the speaker’s close allies) relating to the president’s decision to involve US forces in an ongoing—if largely dysfunctional—NATO-led assault on Libya.
One proposal would have authorized the president’s war of whim.
The other would have cut funding for Obama’s latest war, thus bringing the initiative to a swift conclusion.
On the first measure, the House voted 295-123 against authorizing even the limited use of US forces.
On the second measure, the House rejected the funding cut by a 238-180 vote.
So the House has refused to authorize the president’s war with Libya.
At the same time, however, the House has agreed to continue funding it.
If the pairing of policies makes no apparent sense, well, welcome to John Boehner’s Congress.
The speaker, who has repeatedly steered the House away from moves that would actually hold the president to account, has again shredded the Constitution in order to help the Obama White House maintain an undeclared, unnecessary and unwise war.
Let’s be clear about what the different players in this charade wanted with regard to these House votes.
The Obama administration would have preferred House votes to authorize the mission and to maintain the funding. They lost on the authorization, which is embarrassing, but kept the money for the project, which is definitive. So, while the president did not get exactly what he wanted, he survived an accountability moment without really being held to account.
Antiwar forces on Capitol Hill, led by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, and the rapidly growing bipartisan coalition of congressional supporters of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, wanted the House to refuse to authorize the Libyan mission and to refuse to fund it. They easily won the lesser goal, in that the authorization resolution was defeated. But things got far more complex when it came to the funding resolution.
Some antiwar members, such as Kucinich, voted for the resolution because the wording seemed to limit funding for the mission. Others, such as Paul, voted against it because they feared the resolution could be read as authorizing some aspects of the current mission.
Only Boehner and the most politically self-serving of his allies favored both the refusal to authorize the war and the continued funding of it. Why? Because the refusal of authorization took a poke at the president, while the maintenance of funding served the agenda of the generous campaign donors associated with the nation’s largest military contractors, a crowd that remains enthusiastic about maintaining even the most foolish of fool’s missions abroad.